Hastings: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon becoming more like HBO, Showtime and Starz

Reed Hastings

Reed Hastings

Netflix and Amazon are increasingly becoming very distinct choices for online streaming, as evidenced by the latest stats released by Netflix this afternoon along with its quarterly financial results.

Amazon Prime Instant Video now carries just 68 of the movies and shows on the Netflix “Top 200″ list, down from 73 in January, by Netflix’s count. But increasingly that comparison indicates not that Netflix is better, but that the Amazon and Netflix libraries are different.

Here is what Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells had this to say on the topic in their quarterly letter to shareholders.

Hulu and Amazon Prime Instant Video continue to license some exclusive content and develop their own Originals. We have House of Cards and many others; Hulu has Battleground; and Amazon Prime Instant  Video will have Alpha House; all are quite good and quite different. All three services are becoming more distinct from one another, like HBO, Showtime and Starz are distinct from one another on linear TV. Of our “top 200” titles, Hulu is now at 36 titles and Amazon Prime Instant Video is at 68. Now that Hulu has more money to spend, content prices may rise further, but we have many multi-year deals in place to mitigate this. Hulu and Amazon appear to have about the same amount of viewing, and Hulu recently reported 4 million paying members.

The reference to Hulu having more money to spend follows the decision by its owners to invest another $750 million in the company.

Meanwhile, Amazon was able to secure an exclusive deal with Viacom for popular children’s shows including Dora and Diego.

Hastings and Wells addressed that deal in their letter: “As we have said in the past, it is our preference to license specific shows that our members love in an exclusive manner. While the shows from Nickelodeon and Comedy Central came off our service, we introduced several new shows from Disney Jr., The Cartoon Network and the HUB for kids, and great comedies like “The New Girl” from Fox on July 1. Viewing and retention remain strong.”

Netflix added 630,000 domestic streaming customers in the quarter, bringing its total to nearly 30 million subscribers. Analysts had been expecting more additions, due in part to the release of a new Arrested Development season on Netflix during the quarter.

Hastings and Wells wrote, “This show already had a strong brand and fan base, generating a small but noticeable bump in membership when we released it. Other great shows don’t have that noticeable effect in their first season because they are less established.”

Netflix overall posted earnings of 49 cents a share, ahead of analysts’ expectations of 40 cents. The company is webcasting an interview of Hastings and other execs at 3 p.m. Pacific today in lieu of a quarterly conference call. It will be conducted by Rich Greenfield of BTIG Research along with Julia Boorstin, CNBC, with questions from investors and analysts via email and Twitter. Here’s the live stream.

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